A Fox River Testimony

Have you ever experienced how something good can become even better when you know the depth of care and feeling that went into its creation?  How a meal is even more savory, a garden becomes even lovelier, a blanket brings more comfort when you understand the love behind the hands that shaped it?  I mean, it’s the same food, the same garden, the same blanket, but feeling that love transcends the visual element and allows that physical object to reach a place in your spirit.  The more I get to know our Artist-In-Residence Joel Sheesley, the more this happens to me when I experience the Fox River artwork he has been creating for Art of the Fox, a program of our Fox River Initiative.

I don’t think it’s necessary even to have met Joel to appreciate his talent and the beauty of his paintings.  They can stop you in your tracks, and sometimes you need a moment to determine if you are looking at a photograph or if someone could really have captured in a still painting those nuances of light and depth and a river in motion.  But spend even a little time with Joel, and I think your experience of his art will be magnified a thousandfold.

Joel has spent the last two years traveling up and down the Fox River, from West Dundee in the north all the way down to Ottawa in the South in an attempt, in his words, to “respond through art to the beauty of this river.”  As a plein air painter, Joel describes his first task as just to be in a place, to put himself in an observational position so he can absorb and soak up what is going on around him.  Doesn’t that sound marvelous?  “You’re at the mercy of time, and the movement of the sun, weather, mosquitoes, you name it,” says Joel.  “But it’s the most delightful way to work because it puts you right there and you feel like whatever you have put down on your canvas is really an honest take.  That’s why I love it.  It’s wonderful to just BE in the place that you are painting.”

He has managed to put his honest take on more than 70 places all along the Fox River, and this collected works, called A Fox River Testimony, will be on exhibit at the Schingoethe Center of Aurora University beginning September 20th, 2018.  The exhibit will close Friday, December 14th and be available for viewing during the Schingoethe Center’s regular hours.  Giclee prints of select paintings and also a book of Joel’s paintings and writings are for sale as well.

Joel’s original paintings are available for purchase now, and a gallery can be viewed at the website above.

At the very least, you will add a beautiful rendering of the Fox River to your wall.  But the artist himself hopes it will be more than that.  “I imagine a person falling in love with a painting, and falling in love with what it represents, and feeling concern for it,” says Joel.  “I want them to feel a kind of affection for it because of where it leads them, what it takes them to.”

“A Fox River Testimony is an effort to let the Fox speak.  It’s my testimony of time spent on the river, but it’s also a testimony of The Conservation Foundation, that they are invested in the aesthetic dimension of the Fox River along with all of its other dimensions, and a testimony to their ongoing love, care and support for the river and the communities it runs through.”

We could not have chosen a more talented, thoughtful artist to paint this testimony.  We know you will be as moved by it as we have been!

Written by Jill Johnson, Communications Manager


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